Noting down the evidence
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INDUSTRIAL TRIBUNAL chairmen control the proceedings. This has considerable advantages in keeping the case in standard form and saving time. It means that the employer, when not professionally represented, is not able to read off any prepared set statement which he has carefully concocted beforehand. After the formal facts of names, firms and addresses, the chairman wants to be informed of the circumstances of the dismissal and what led up to it. He will quickly and sharply bring the witness back to recounting the exact details.
All the time, the chairman has to make his own notes. These are the only official record of the proceedings. They are made longhand, with varying degrees of abbreviations and legibility to anyone other than the writer. So it is important for every witness to go slow enough to give the chairman time to write down.
Often the chairman will tell the witness to pause, but sometimes he may miss out points which the witness wishes to have on the record because they were talking too quickly. The lay members may occasionally make notes, but not many do so, except odd items, which might be used to supplement the chairman's notes on a certain point. But the chairman's notes are the official record and establish the facts on which the case will be decided. If there is an appeal, these notes become the evidence of facts upon which the appeal court will adjudicate.
In cases of appeal, it is often necessary to get a transcript of the notes, which the chairman usually has to redictate in order to get the fair copy prepared. There is some reluctance to issue these notes, which is understandable in view of the labour involved. Often they will not be released until an appeal has been lodged, so that a decision has to be taken on appealing without the full documentation.
The chairman cannot write everything down, so important points may be omitted, even though most chairmen are thoroughly competent in their task and have a thorough knack of summarising the essential point of each reply to questions.
In the normal course, there can be no appeal on the facts of any case; appeals can be lodged only on points of law. It can be a point of law that the notes are completely repugnant to the real facts, but this is a rare and difficult point to take. This empfiasises the importance of trying to ensure that the chairman gets his notes correct, and for the employer to establish the facts clearly and accurately.
When the hearing has finished, the parties are asked to leave the courtroom and the tribunal sits in private, without even a clerk present. Usually, the tribunal is able to reach its decision, whether unanimous or by majority, in a short while and the parties are called back to hear the result. This is the chairman's job. His announcement is done thoroughly and painstakingly. He recapitulates all the essential points submitted by the two parties, indicating in great detail any points where the evidence between them may differ and stating the view of the tribunal as to the conclusion reached. He mentions the points of law which have been involved and the bearing which these have on the decision eventually reached.
The chairman will have set down a complete history of the case, with all the facts, the legal arguments, the manner of compliance with the statute, leading to the decision. It is usually dictated into a recording machine, the only time it is used,. from which it is transcribed by typists for final correction and approval by the chairman. It is submitted formally to the Clerk of the Tribunals for his official stamp and becomes the official award. Copies are sent to the parties a week or so afterwards.